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How to Teach Cutting

Children need to be proficient in scissors use in order to participate in school and leisure activities.

Children with special needs often have difficulty not only with the task of scissoring but also with the basic skills required prior to picking up a pair of scissors. It’s important to step back and take a look teaching a child how to hold scissors properly, develop strength of the hand muscles, cross mid-line and more.

  • Begin by working with your child on the concept of opening/releasing. The use of tongs to squeeze and release items of various sizes is excellent practice. You can use regular tongs or order ones of all shapes and sizes from therapy catalogues
  • Turkey basters or small droppers are fun ways to encourage squeeze and release. Colour the water with food colouring for more fun. Try using a few glasses of water in primary colours and seeing what new colours children can make by mixing them. They don’t even realize they’re building brain AND fine motor skills!
  • Use hole punchers of all shapes and sizes.

When your children use both hands together to complete a task, it’s called “bilateral integration.” Scissoring is a skill where one hand holds the tool and the other is responsible for moving the paper in different directions. Children need to learn how to use their hands together for many things including:  buttoning, tying, using a knife to cut food and handwriting (one hand holds paper while the other writes).

It’s now time to work with actual scissors. Make sure that kids are holding their scissors correctly now to prevent bad habits from forming. Place the thumb into the round hole and use wording such as, “thumbs up” to help them to remember which way their hand should be placed. If your child is a visual learner, draw a smile on her thumb or place a sticker on the thumbnail.

Begin by snipping to practice opening and closing the scissors.

Ask kids to cut across narrow strips of paper or straws so that the cut is a “success.” It’s fun to cut straws and watch them fly across the table!

  • Try a craft such as cutting strips of paper and fastening them together to make a paper chain.
  • Cutting grass and items in nature such as dandelions or leaves off of trees is not only fun but gets kids outside.
  • Children should cut straight and then curvy lines. Progress to shapes with thick lines. It takes time to build up those hand muscles and just like everything else we do, practice is so important.
  • Give lots of encouragement and support.

Note: If your child is left-handed, please purchase the correct scissors for left-handed kids. Tasks are easier when using the proper tools.


Article written by Elliot

As a trained CIMT therapist, I love seeing the amazing changes that people make throughout the programme. I enjoy the intensity of the programme and the bond you make with the patients and their families, but making the programme fun to me is very important to me as seeing the patients have fun whilst they improve is very rewarding.

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